“Varanasi: The viral picture that defines India’s Covid distress” – A critique

By Siti Noriezam binti Mohd Zamri

Article by Pradeep Kumar, BBC News

Pradeep Kumar has written a human-interest feature story on health issues that portrayed the reality of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in India. 

The article discussed the story behind the viral picture in India which portrayed an image of a lady sitting in an electric rickshaw with the dead body of her son in the busy city of Varanasi. It reflected how this picture defines India’s Covid distress.

Generally, the writer applied the technique of block writing throughout the article because this technique can ease the readers to understand and read it step by step.

Interestingly, the writer has successfully produced good writing because it is in line with feature writing techniques and includes several key elements of writing. 

First of all, Pradeep chose the most beneficial focused topic relevant to be discussed nowadays in which it talks about the COVID-19 crisis in India. 

As stated by the writer, this state of Varanasi is among the worst affected as a severe second wave of COVID-19 sweeps India. This focus would give sparkle in the eye of readers and make it newsworthy because it reports the reality of life that people nowadays are faced with – health matters.

Besides, by just reading the headline, one could sense the writer has successfully created curiosity in the mind of readers. The words such as ‘viral picture’ and ‘India’s Covid-19 distress’ easily make the readers wanting to know more about the picture and its significance to the public. The reason for the writer to use these words is to hook the attention of readers to read the article. 

Personally, this technique has successfully attracted me to read and to think about “what the picture is all about” and “what exactly is the story behind the picture”. It is clear from the article that Pradeep has shown sensitivity in his writing by using cropped out picture as an indication of respect to the dead body. 

Another technique of feature writing used by the writer is his usage of memorable characters such as the picture of the Indian people in dealing with COVID-19, and one picture showing the patients in need of hospital bed and treatment. That kind of picture will stick in the mind of the reader because it evokes emotion and sympathy towards the people there. 

Carefully, the writer constructed an interesting and direct lead: ‘A heartbreaking image of a mother sitting with the lifeless body of her 29-year-old son at her feet has gone viral in India’. This kind of lead creates suspense, and evokes emotion of the reader to continue reading the article to know about the story.

In addition, the writer used the modified inverted pyramid approach where he used the newsworthy information as the lead. But, instead of explaining the story behind the viral picture directly as the most newsworthy information, the writer gave the background detail first to describe about the pandemic situation in India.

The correlation between lead and the body is a must in feature writing. It is crucial because it can make readers understand the story. Besides, the lead sentence is a promised statement, and the body has to fulfil the promised statement. 

Hence, Pradeep used a technique by not merely telling the reader, but by connecting the lead to the body to describe and explain the story behind the viral picture in detail. 

The writer wrote:

“On Monday morning, Mrs. Singh had traveled with her son to a hospital attached to the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) from their home, just over an hour’s drive from the city, his uncle Jai Singh told BBC Hindi”.

And he further wrote:

“Vineet collapsed at the entrance of the trauma centre and, his mother says, hospital staff refused to admit him. On the way to the third hospital, Vineet died, his body at his mother’s feet.

“And as she sat there grieving, shattered by the death of her son and in desperate need of help, she was robbed. Her son’s medical records and phone were stolen.”

That’s how Pradeep explained the body part clearly what had happened to the lady in the picture. This explanation shows its significance that reflects the real crisis of COVID-19 in India. Therefore, Pradeep manages to fulfil the promise of the lead in the subsequent body paragraph.

Interestingly, the writer managed to get solid, valuable news sources by donning the interview session with the reporter who covered the story. In addition, the writer also successfully gives attribution to every party that is involved in the news. Among them are the reporter, the lady in the picture, and the medical superintendent of the hospital. 

These important elements make the news more reliable.

Moreover, since the article is done based on the interview conducted between the writer and the reporter who covered the story, it has shown an excellent interviewing skill. 

Firstly, the writer used one of the interview techniques where he quoted specific information. This technique has been used to find out what happened as seen in the picture, how it happened, and all the relevant facts that might be useful for the writer.

Secondly, when one reads the article, one can feel that the article seems like a conversation between two friends, telling about what is happening around the corner. This helps to create a sense of closeness between the writer and the reader.

Furthermore, Pradeep includes transaction and dialogue techniques in his writing. For the transition technique, among the examples are the phrase On Monday morning and but.

Meanwhile, for the dialogue technique, the writer wrote:

“They said he’s got corona. Take him away from here. My son, my child was gasping for breath. We begged for oxygen and an ambulance, but we got nothing,” she said, weeping.

Lastly, for the ending part, it connected and reflected the lead sentence where it ended with the quotation of the dialogue that illustrated India’s COVID-19 distress. 

The writer wrote:

“All patients that are being treated are emergencies and they are getting to us in critical condition. But we simply cannot save the life of every single patient.” 

Unfortunately, the article ends with no mention of solution or suggestion on to solve the problem.

Overall, this article is a good piece of writing because it follows the basic principles and concepts of feature writing. In addition, it is an interesting topic because it helps readers to be aware of the development of COVID-19 issue around the world, particularly in India. By just looking at the title, a reader would be enticed to read on. ***

(This article is written as part of individual assignment series for Feature Writing class)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *